After finally claiming an Olympic medal in the last race of her career today at Sanki Sliding Center, U.S. skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace revealed that she had been suffering from concussion-like symptoms in the days leading up to competition. (She later said she did not have a concussion, as an MRI would later reveal.)
Those symptoms led to doctors having to limit her training runs ahead of the event.
“I felt fine and safe sliding but my vision has been going in and out of being able to focus, which slows my reaction time,” she said according to the Associated Press.
“It has been an extremely difficult week but my family, coaches, and prayers of many allowed me to come out and compete the best I can given the situation.”
Despite those issues, Pikus-Pace managed to keep hold of the silver medal with a four-run aggregate time of 3:53.86, .97 of a second behind gold medal winner Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain.
It’s a remarkable ending to a roller-coaster career full of highs and lows.
After claiming the 2004-05 World Cup, she would become a medal favorite for the 2006 Torino Olympics until she was hit by a bobsled in an October 2005 incident at Calgary Olympic Park.
Despite sustaining a compound fracture of her right leg, Pikus-Pace returned to competition just weeks after the accident. But she ultimately did not make the U.S. Olympic Team for Torino.
She came back strong by winning the 2007 world championship and made the Olympic team for Vancouver in 2010. But she finished fourth there, missing a medal by a mere one-tenth of a second.
After that result, she decided to retire and gave birth to her second child in 2011. A year later, she suffered a miscarriage, and the event caused her to rethink her decision to leave the sport.
With her husband and two children at nearly every race for support, Pikus-Pace came back for the 2012-13 World Cup season.
Still, after enduring through so much, there was something that hadn’t been accomplished – until today.
“It was worth the wait,” Pikus-Pace said in a team release. “It was worth every minute of it. Honestly, getting hit by the bobsled, people said, oh man, that’s horrible. Getting fourth at the Olympics, they said ah, too bad. Then I had the miscarriage at 18 weeks, and many tears were shed.
“But if I hadn’t gone through every single one of those things, I could not be here today. And this is right where I want to be, and to have my family here, the love and support, it’s just beyond words. Just beyond words.”